This week, while at least a quarter-million Israelis gathered outside the Old City walls in support of Jerusalem, CNN completely downplayed the event -- an act that media watchdogs are calling CNN's worst violation of objectivity in recent memory.
This critique refers both to CNN's earlier and later report on the rally:
This critique will examine five points:
- How many people attended the rally?
- Coverage of the actual event
- Historical context of Jerusalem
- Demographic composition of attendees
- Nature of the rally: peaceful or provocative?
1) HOW MANY PEOPLE ATTENDED THE RALLY?
In the article headline, CNN quantifies the number of attendees:
"Jerusalem protest against U.S. peace plan draws thousands"
CNN's opening paragraph repeats the same assertion:
"Thousands of people gathered on Monday..."
A later CNN article updated the reference to "tens of thousands." But how many people does this actually refer to? 30,000? 40,000?
Across-the-board consensus from European, American, and Israeli media estimate at least one-quarter-million:
- The Washington Post reports: "The rally, centered at the Jaffa Gate entrance to the walled Old City, was said to be the largest demonstration ever in Jerusalem and one of the largest in recent Israeli history, attracting a quarter-million people, according to police estimates."
- The Jerusalem Post calls it "some 300,000 people."
- The Los Angeles Times writes of "more than 200,000 Israelis and Jews from around the world."
- The Times of London says: "more than 200,000 Israelis."
- Israeli TV-1 reports that "about 300,000 attended."
We ask: Why does CNN stand isolated amongst world media in minimizing the outpouring of Jewish support for Jerusalem?
2) COVERAGE OF THE ACTUAL EVENT
It would be expected that the largest political gathering in Jerusalem in the last 1900 years --- and one which addresses the most primary world issue of the day -- would merit top media coverage.
Indeed, sources like the New York Times, LA Times, London Times, Washington Post, and most every other news organization covered the rally as an independent story.
The early edition of CNN devoted a paltry 5 sentences to the event. In the later edition, when many more details of the rally were available, the rally was not mentioned in the headline at all -- and CNN did not give an account of the rally until paragraph #14.
Is not a rally of over 250,000 people headline-worthy?
The later CNN article, published after all the speeches had been made, did not offer one quote from any of the quarter-million attendees. The lone CNN quote comes from Muslim Waqf Adnan Husseini, who called the rally "provocative."
Were no Jews available for comment?!
3) HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF JERUSALEM
CNN gravely diminishes the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. There is no mention of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years -- 1,500 years before Islam ever existed. Nor does CNN make any mention of the Temple Mount as the site of Judaism's two Holy Temples.
The site is known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the third-holiest site in the Islamic world.
Right, CNN. Third-holiest to Moslems -- even though over the last 1,500 years, Jerusalem has never been the religious or national capital of any Arab or Moslem entity. Never. But 3,000 years as the Jewish capital and Judaism's single holiest site? CNN omits any reference.
Further, in a shocking reference, CNN says the site of the rally was:
"Jaffa Gate, or Bab al-Khalil, the main western entrance to the walled city."
"Jaffa Gate" is the standard reference in any encyclopedia, university textbook, diplomatic document, media style guide, or any other acceptable Western source. So why does CNN go out of it's way – particularly in the context of reporting a Jewish rally -- to drudge up Bab al-Khalil, an obscure Arabic reference to this geographic site?
Shall we also expect CNN to refer to Manhattan as Man-a-hat-ta, or "island of hills," the name given by the Algonquian Indians?
4) DEMOGRAPHIC COMPOSITION OF ATTENDEES
The Jerusalem rally was a non-partisan show of solidarity from Jews around the world and across the political spectrum. Many Jews flew in from the diaspora to attend, and busloads of Jews came from 100 towns and villages throughout the country.
The event was specifically planned to be non-political. No politicians or members of Israeli parliament (other than the mayor of Jerusalem) were allowed to deliver speeches.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
The participants were not primarily from Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, or the Jordan Valley; they were from the entire spectrum of Israeli society. They came from as far north as Kiryat Shmona and as far south as Eilat, and were native-born Israelis, new immigrants, and Diaspora Jews, Russian speakers and English speakers, religious and secular. http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2001/01/09/News/News.19051.html
So how does CNN spin it? The only reference to the demographic character of the attendees is to paraphrase unnamed Barak supporters that:
"...the gathering is, in effect, an election rally by right-wingers."
CNN advances a myth that the Israeli public is divided on the issue of Jerusalem. In truth, even Barak continues to repeat his strong opposition to relinquishing sovereignty over Old City sites.
Time magazine, in a report issued by bureau chief Matt Rees, clarifies the bi-partisan nature of support for a united Jerusalem:
But Jerusalem is an issue on which many very liberal Israelis feel great discomfort. Not so much because they don't like the concessions on the Temple Mount that Barak has put on the table, but because they feel that while they're making all these concession on what for them is the holiest site, the Palestinians are moving in the opposite direction, refusing to acknowledge the fact that the Jewish temple stood on the same site, and refusing to compromise. Many Jews who are not particularly nationalistic see that as a very unfair element of current negotiations. The mufti of Jerusalem recently issued a fatwa saying there was no Jewish temple and no validity to Jewish claims that this was the Temple Mount. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,94168,00.html
5) NATURE OF THE RALLY: PEACEFUL OR PROVOCATIVE?
At the Jerusalem rally, people were quiet and orderly, listening to speakers and musicians. Some paraded with Israeli flags and signs, while most just stood still. Along the wall of the Old City itself, hundreds of young students sat on the grass around large candles, reading Psalms and praying. From time to time, dancing broke out in the streets.
That's right, dancing.
Given the violent nature of Palestinian rallies in recent months, was it not newsworthy that there was no violence at the Jewish rally? That none of the speakers spewed the hate-filled rhetoric commonly heard at other gatherings? That of the thousands of Jews gathered, not a single rock or firebomb was thrown at passing Arabs?
CNN, of course, has only its lone quote from Muslim Waqf Adnan Husseini, calling the rally "provocative."
The Wall Street Journal Europe writes beautifully:
The protest, in which both Israeli and diaspora Jews participated, was remarkable for its size, but also for its peacefulness. A sizable Israeli security presence was on hand, both to protect the protestors and to prevent them from extending their demonstration to the Damascus Gate, which lies in an Arab neighborhood of the city. But this police presence does nothing to diminish the fact that the demonstrators, unlike the Palestinian "demonstrators" that have sparked much of the violence of the last two months, came and went in peace.
That they delivered their message peacefully should not diminish but rather should increase the respect that is accorded to that message, if for no other reason than to show that violence is not the only course of action rewarded in the "peace process."
In the end, the rally was a huge success. It reminded all Jews -- and told the world -- that Jerusalem was, is and always will be the heart of the Jewish people. With or without CNN.
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